Uttarakhand: Forest fire claims 5 lives; NDRF forces deployed

Dehradun (PTI): Raging forest fires in Uttarakhad have killed five people and blighted 1890.79 hectares of forest land in Kumaon and Garhwal regions prompting Governor K K Paul to seek deployment of three NDRF companies to douse the flame and conduct rescue operations.

Since early February, 922 cases of forest fire incidents in the state have occurred killing five people, including three women and a child in separate incidents, and injuring seven, Principal Conservator of Forest (PCF) B P Gupta said.

Pauri, Tehri and Nainital are the worst hit by these fires as they abound in Cheed and Sal trees which are highly inflammable.

“The NDRF companies, assisted by experts, will launch fire extinguishing and rescue operations in affected areas immediately,” Chief Secretary Shatrughna Singh said, adding precaution is a must to minimise loss to forest wealth and wildlife.

IG Sanjay Gunjyal has been asked to coordinate with the NDRF, the district magistrates concerned and Principal Conservator of Forest to supervise the rescue operations, he said.

Locals have being told to report a fire incident to the district magistrate concerned as soon as they sight it so that it can bee controlled in time.

“Uttarakhand Governor KK Paul convened an important meeting of officials concerned last evening to review the steps being taken to control the forest fires spreading to residential areas,” Gupta, who is also the nodal officer for fire incidents in Kumaon and Garhwal regions, said.

The governor has doubled the number of personnel deployed from 3000 to 6000 to control the fire and asked all agencies including the SDRF, district administration and the rural population to contribute their bit, he said.

Forest fires are natural during summer but this time they have occurred on a bigger scale as the fire season which normally begins by February 15 began on February 2 when two women were charred to death in the jungles of Uttarkashi, the PCF said.

The other three casualties including that of a woman and her six year old child were reported from Nainital and Pauri districts, he said.

The PCF said the scale of forest fires in Uttarakhand this time has been bigger due to little or no rain during winter at most places.

Pre-fire alerts listing possible fire points over the next seven days in forest areas are being made available in the Forest Department website www.forest.uk.govt.

Former chief minister Harish Rawat has asked the governor to declare Uttarakhand as fire-disaster stricken state and involve locals in fire extinguishing efforts.

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